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Research Assistant, Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica. E-mail:

Research Fellow, Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica. E-mail:
Social Distance and Cross-Strait Relations:Taiwanese Attitudes toward the Independence/Unification Issue
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This study probes Taiwanese perception of social distance toward China and its impact on their political attitudes toward the issue of independence/unification. Taking advantage of social distance and social identity theories from social psychology, we hypothesize that the Taiwanese people with a smaller perceived social distance toward China would indicate an inclination for China unification; otherwise, they would prefer Taiwan’s independence. We modify the relational models theory to construct two variables to approximate social distance: we ask respondents first whether they regard China as a family member or a partner, and second, whether China views Taiwan as a family member or a partner. To examine our arguments, we utilize the “2019 Survey of the Image of China” to investigate the association between different types of relational cognitions and their impacts on cross-Strait relations. The findings by and large confirm the validity of the relational models
theory, revealing that the Taiwanese electorate is prone to support unification when
it perceives a closer social distance toward China. The results also demonstrate that
those who are willing to accept China as an in-group tend to expect reciprocity from
China. In contrast, those perceiving a greater social distance toward China exhibit ambivalent independence/unification preferences; they express less intimate attitudes but also do not exhibit great hostility toward China.